I don’t usually come right out and say “I’m demisexual” in those words. Instead, I’ll say something like “I’m somewhere close to the demisexual end of the sexuality spectrum,” or “I’m demi-ish.” The reason I don’t often fully commit to the label of demisexual is that I am fairly certain that it was a learned or reactive approach to my sexuality, rather than an intrinsic one for me.
Before we get too far into that, I am going to share how I define demisexuality, because A) it’s not as well known a term outside of a niche group of sex-positive folk, and B) even within that group, it can hold different meanings to different people.
For me it means that I need to have an emotional connection to someone before I become sexually attracted to them. But, the “ish” for me comes in when I recognize that an emotional connection for me can be one-sided. I can feel emotionally connected to a character on television, for example. Not only do they not even know I exist – they’re not even a real person. I can feel emotionally connected to someone who has shared some vulnerability in a support group setting. Demisexuality, however, does not preclude me from having an extremely high sex drive. If this hypothetical person I feel an emotional connection to happens to also be someone I consider to be physically attractive, I might develop a crush on them and start fantasizing about them on occasion.
But I don’t act on those feelings and I have started to question if this is connected to a certain gremlin I’ve come to recognize over the past year. I have a gremlin named Felicia that convinces me I don’t want to do things when the reality is that she’s worried I’m going to fail or get hurt trying.
She’s a fear-based gremlin (I think most of them are). Like an over-protective mother, her care comes in the form of sheltering me from anything or anyone who might hurt me or make me feel badly. The upside? She’s very effective. I’ve had very few emotional hardships since she’s been around and I get to experience the world as a person who succeeds in everything that I set my mind to….
…except the things I’m willing to set my mind to are limited to the things she approves for me to do. I’ll only take the risk if there’s very little risk involved at all.
So, with this in mind, I’ve been trying to investigate what exactly holds me back from seeking additional sexual partners, whether they be in the form of committed emotional/romantic relationships, or something less structured and more casual.
To phrase it in a different way – I’m in this open/polyamorous relationship that allows for me to fulfill my emotional and/or sexual needs across multiple partners, and for the past four-plus years I’ve continued to declare myself monoamorous and largely uninterested in doing so. And yet, I am not having as much sex as I would like.
Why is that? Why is it that the solution to this challenge is plain as day and I continue to accept that I don’t take advantage of it because simply I don’t want to?
The answer I give myself to this is that I do want more sex, but I only want it with my partner. It’s not a “need” I want met by someone else. That, for me, has felt acceptable for many years, and is largely why I still identify as monoamorous in a polyamorous relationship.
But is that me, or is that Felicia talking?
Earlier I said that I sometimes think that my demisexuality is a learned or reactive approach to my sexuality, and I feel like the next step for me to uncover where this comes from is to dig into what I mean by that.
I was a hypersexual teenager and young adult. I left no stone unturned in my exploration of my desires. Every time I’d have a one night stand or had a sexual partner decide he wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, I’d brush it off by saying they were using me as much as I was using them. I wasn’t emotionally attached to any of them, I just wanted to enjoy the hedonistic thrill and freedom of expressing my sexuality, desires, and bring all my fantasies to life.
I’d always said that it stopped after I fell in love. Once I had sex with love, having casual sex felt hollow; but until this very moment, I don’t think that I’ve ever put together that falling in love was only one thing that happened during that period of time when I switched from hyper to demi.
The other thing was that I had contracted HSV2 from one of my sexual partners.
And the person I fell in love with was the first one who wasn’t phased by it.
I ended up marrying that guy eventually (the one who wasn’t phased by it, not the one who gave it to me). I ended up being with him literally until death did us part, and when I came out of my grief and started craving sexual connections again, I ran into a big problem with folks who were not comfortable having sex with me because of my status.
I am a person who operates in “bargaining” space all the time. I look for silver linings. I see bright sides. It helps me cope with the things in my life that are not ideal. So at one point, I even wrote that having genital herpes helped to protect me from having a type of ego bruising experiences that I wanted to avoid. Casual sex no longer felt like “I’m using them as much as they’re using me.” The stakes felt higher. I wanted them to fall in love with me. I wanted them to desire me. The experience of my wanting something with someone who wasn’t interested in pursuing an ongoing thing with me was a huge blow to my ego. Especially if they led me to believe they might be, and only discovered they weren’t AFTER we had sex.
But, if I’m being really honest – there is another side to this coin.
I was equally as terrified that after casual sex, someone might not be as exciting to me as I was to them. Then I’d be in the position to have to reject someone who DID want to be with me. I have not responded with emotional maturity in those situations. I have ghosted men and friends in the past when these circumstance arise and it is NOT a good feeling, but it does feels self-protective.
So my solution was to put up a bunch of “rules” that kept me safe from having either of those experiences, and …ta-dah! I’m demisexual!
So, now that I’m untangling all of these emotions and recognizing that this identity was largely formed out of fear and avoidance, it’s difficult to figure out what my next steps might be. I don’t think it’s to go out and get laid. I still believe that emotionally connective sex is more my speed than casual sex; but I’m now willing to investigate whether there are different layers of emotionally connective sex I might be comfortable with that are not based in romantic love.
Here’s the big thing, because Felicia keeps wanting to write my next paragraph for me and tell you that it’s still possible that I really am monoamorous, despite the fact that I fully embrace and accept the tenets of ethical nonmonogamy. She tells me this because she’s trying to prepare and protect me from the possibility that taking any “next steps” in this experiment could completely blow up in my face, and not the fun way, which results in my saying things like “I’m not ready yet” and “I am happy the way things are.”
Which, by the way, I am. I love my partner deeply and the sex we have together is amazing. I wish I could have more of it.
She’s right there, asking me “But what If I do have sex with someone else and I end up feeling awful about it? What if I get my heart broken or my ego bruised? What if it makes me so emotional that it scares them off ‘cause now I’m crying and I can’t explain why? What if they feel used because this all turns out to prove that I’m not polyamorous and I can’t do it?”
“What if I fail?”
I’ll know I’m ready when I can confidently tell her that failure is part of growth, and the only true failure would be use fear as a crutch that limits my potential for new kinds of learning and fulfillment.
I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer.